Consciousness and Bliss are one and the same4 min read

Bliss or anandam is the Summum Bonum. It is not an attribute of the Self, it is the very being of the Self. It and Consciousness are one and the same, or, as it is expressed in Sanskrit, “chit” is “anandam”. Pain-consciousness, as consciousness, is identical with pleasure-consciousness. As has been explained by Shri Vidyaranya Swami in the opening verses of Panchadashi, consciousness remains ever one and the same, though its objects, phenomenally speaking, differ. Because bliss and consciousness are mutually identical and ever self-identical it does not follow that the psychological states, also, are identical with one another. This point is to be noted with care. The presence of an unchanging immanent consciousness does not imply the identity of the succeeding psychological states.

The terms bliss and consciousness, anandam and chit, do not refer to two different things. As seen through spiritual intuition, consciousness is bliss and vice versa. The difference between consciousness and bliss lasts as long as limitations continue to be imposed by conceptual thinking. It is imaginary and not real. If it were real, it would persist for ever; but in fact it does not.

How should bliss be defined? The great master of logic Shri Madhusudana Saraswati (Seventeenth Century) characterises it as something which, when realised as Self, causes every other object, youth, health, name, fame, position and power to lose their value and attraction. It is not itself an object, though it is positive.

It was once stated before Swami Sat Chit Ananda ji (obit 1947) that a certain man who called himself a Mahatma was given to drink, and was at times actually drunk. The Swami ji remarked calmly, “He has not tasted the Self-intoxication of Advaita”.

Bliss is identical with fullness of Being. The conception of Bliss is not psychological, it is metaphysical, to use the word in the sense of Aristotle. Bliss appears as divided when the expression of Being as Self is incomplete. It is not at all determined by the external senses. It is totally independent of nature (Prakriti). “Self is Bliss”, declares the Upanishad. The psychological experience of the lower self, which is really not-self, is the source of conditional delight. It passes away like the shadow of a cloud on the green hills. The Self is the source of unconditional joy. It needs no object to give rise to it, no object to continue it. When the clouds of nescience have disappeared it shines for ever. The enlightened man feels: “I have been bliss for ever. What a joke, I thought I was not bliss”. To seek for the nature of the Self is to seek for bliss. Try this experiment, now and with determination.

The not-self is not delight. Be it the beautiful scenery of Mount Fuji or the meeting of Caesar with Cleopatra, it is not delight. This derived delight is accidental and impermanent. It acquires a delightful character when it is associated with Self in the state of mental concentration. But it is illusory and often leaves a reaction of pain. Self-delight is original and not subject to fluctuation. Self is delight. “The knower of the Absolute (Brahman) does not fear when he knows the Self as Brahman and Anandam (Bliss)”. This is an oft-quoted Upanishadic text. How worth-while is the yogic effort to know the Self.

Shri Madhusudana Saraswati quotes the theories of the theistic Vedantins, like Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka and others, who postulate an expansive Being in the fellowship of the Delight-Self and a consequent blissful experience. The fallacies of these theories are not difficult to grasp. In the Advaita Vedanta of Shri Shankara, Bliss is Being. It is Self. In the other Vedantic theories also, Bliss is infinite Being; but it is there held that the individual soul (jiva), as a finite being, can taste only a drop of Bliss in fellowship with the Lord. For them, the individual soul is atomic consciousness and is limited in vision, knowledge and delight by nature. Even in the Divine Consciousness the perpetual enjoyment of delight is not regarded as sure. Jiva Goswami (71513-1597) leaves philosophy and seeks satisfaction in theology, a procedure which will not have much appeal in this scientific age.

To make the world peaceful and content, to purge it of greed and Hitlerism and the Communist dream of world revolution, there is only one way, and it is to preach, in the traditional way, the holy Advaita of Shri Bhagavatpada Shankara. Live it, work for it and die for it, if you are true as a human being.